In no particular order (other than the most recent on top, which I guess now that you mention it, is a particular order), and for no particular reason (other than we watch a lot of movies and have lots of opinions, which by most measures constitutes a particular reason… gee, really should have thought this intro through) here’s a running list of what we’re watching and what we had to say about it.
Wade in the Water (2020)
This is unquestionably the most difficult review I’ve written so far, because even a full day after watching this movie, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about what I saw. Heck, I’m not entirely sure what I saw either. It’s indie. Very indie. It’s dark. Very dark. But it is also not at all what I expected. In retrospect, the trailer feels like it is for an entirely different film. Certainly not the film I saw. Having received a number of awards and a fair share of acclaim, I’ve seen multiple reviews that suggest it is part comedy. It’s not. And even more reviews that draw parallels to Taxi Driver. It’s not. It’s quirky, it’s sad, it’s disturbing, it’s touching, it’s poignant, it’s ugly… and it’s beautiful. I honestly spent a lot of the time watching it internally debating whether I loved or hated it, and most often the answer was “both.” Perhaps the favorite line I saw in someone else’s review of this movie is “It’s a movie that shouldn’t work.” It does.
Blue Story (2020)
This film feels unique and fresh, but it is by no means a new story, as it is a tale that’s been told in film countless times before. Love, friendship, betrayal, and revenge colliding in a crime and gang-ridden environment where two young men are just trying to make it out alive. Yet where this film really excels is in capturing a striking sense of place, with details that feel raw and authentic. At least for me, the dialog and some scenes weren’t always easy to follow, but even so, you’re continually pulled along and deeper into the characters and story by the emotion and energy. More than just pace, this film has a beat to it that is every bit as foot-thumping as its musical score. As a rookie directorial effort, it’s very impressive, and the kind of movie that stays with you quite a while after you watch it.
Body Cam (2020)
Meh. Just meh. I probably could have, should have, ended my review right there, because how else do you sum up a “mystery, thriller, and horror” movie that is entirely watchable, but offers little to no mystery, thrills, or horror? It felt like there was something “there” in the story, which is probably what kept me watching, and hoping it would eventually coalesce into a good movie. It doesn’t. Unfortunately, the plotting, scenes, and characters aren’t ever adequately developed to the point where you feel like you can connect with the film, It feels somehow distant as you’re watching. The dialog and performances are lackluster as well, but when all is said and done, you have to pin the disappointment with this film squarely on a screenplay that let down and otherwise interesting premise.
Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
It’s been fun watching the online reaction to WW84. There doesn’t seem to be any middle of the road reactions to it; people either seem to love it, or they think it was awful. I am in the former camp. Growing up in the 80s, this hit my sentimental sweet spot. More than that though, the allegory seemed more than a little prescient. A narcissist who grants wishes in return for something greater. The same narcissist inciting and relishing in mayhem. In hindsight it may have even been a little too on the nose. Sure, the CGI was… well, what the hell was that cat thing Kristen Wiig was supposed to be anyway? Shortcomings aside, this was a big, fun movie. I found myself wanting to head to a theater to watch it BIG. If it ever gets re-released post pandemic I will be first in line.
The Brand New Testament (2016)
Even though I’m not entirely sure anybody ever reads these, I’m like the dick judge at the Olympics who resists ever giving a perfect score because I want to leave room for something better, no matter how remote the possibility. So congrats to this French film getting my 4.9-star rating. Not for the uptight or easily butthurt, you do need to be someone who can see absurdity in religious dogma to appreciate this brilliant irreverent comedy, with a bit of a Wes Anderson vibe, that also manages to be touching and sweet. Best of all, it has incredible depth, but rather than forcing that upon the viewer, lets you decide how much you want to consider the larger message versus just being amused and entertained. In short, this film made me laugh out loud on multiple occasions and also found me getting a little misty-eyed a couple of times (allergies, prolly). I consider each of those an accomplishment. Deliver both, and you immediately become one of my favorites.
The Devil All the Time (2020)
This American gothic drama is not only based on a book, but very much like a book, in that you’re not propelled along the surface the way you are in most mystery/crime flicks, rather you find yourself getting immersed deeply in its ebb and flow. In fact, I’d contend that the film would be better categorized as a period drama spotlighting seedy characters, than the crime drama or mystery/thriller labels it has been assigned. It’s a slow burn into the moral abyss of a particular time and place in our history, and arguably when the credits finally roll, it’s exactly that they succeeded in pulling you into that time and place, and how well this movie is crafted, that you come away appreciating far more than the story itself. For me at least, it’s the kind of movie you have to be in the right mood for, and fortunately, I was when I watched it.